Tell Me What Happened
Recently, animal communicators from around the world
visited Tiger Canyons to talk to the tigers. The animal communicators
claim they can have conversations with tigers.
Often when I already know the answer, I will ask the
animal communicators to
ask the tiger a question. Occasionally the answer is correct but mostly
wrong, not even close. Clearly we have some way to go before we can have
a conversation with a tiger.
However, when one spends a lot of time with one’s dog
or cat, the ability to communicate increases considerably.
Two tigresses I have been with for many years are
Tigress Shadow (9 years old) and Tigress Julie (14 years old). Both I
have hand raised.
Julie and Shadow are very different characters. Julie
will greet me with a "chuff" and Shadow will have a long conversation
with "staccato chuffing".
For many years these two rival tigresses lived side
by side, separated by an electrical wire fence. Fights through the wire
Working on the assumption that Julie at 14 years old
and Shadow suckling young cubs in a den, would not be interested in
fighting, I put the two tigresses in the same area. In retrospect, it
was a bad, very bad mistake.
The area is large and rugged with the Tiger River
flowing through it. There is plenty of space for the two tigresses to
avoid each other.
Soon it became obvious that Julie was staking out
Shadow's den. It is well documented that male tigers will kill the cubs
of a tigress if he is not the father.
As far as I know, it has never been recorded that a
tigress would kill the cubs of another tigress.
For a week after the birth, Shadow remained in the
den. Julie was seen nearby the den site on numerous occasions.
week, Shadow moved the cubs to a new den 500m to the west of the old
When Julie disappeared for 4 days, I instituted a search
with my trackers. Working
on the assumption that there had been a fight, I instructed them to
most rugged part of the canyon.
Sure enough, there the trackers found Julie badly
beaten up and unable to walk. Fortunately there was water nearby and I
brought Julie meat, which she ate.
The sun was setting over the canyon and the next
morning early I was due to fly to Londolozi for an important board
Instinct warned me to return to protect Julie the
I was elated to see Julie back on her feet, but
limping badly. Julie hobbled to a nearby pool and drank for a full 5
Now she turned towards the cliff and tried to
scramble up onto heavy rocks. "Why on earth would Julie, in her condition,
try to get up onto jagged rocks", I wondered?
Julie's body language was obvious: "Help me onto the
rocks". Pushing and shoving (I had two broken ribs from the Corbett
attack), Julie and I made it up onto the rocks. Julie thanked me
profusely with a "chuff".
Exhausted, Julie and I fell into a doze. Suddenly
Julie was up trying to scramble higher towards the cliff. Then the 150kg
tigress Shadow jumped clean over me and attacked Julie.
The tigresses rear up, boxing by throwing the claws forward to protect
the throat and the spine
Julie fell between two boulders with Shadow on top of
her. Claws ripping, teeth slashing, tigers snarling, the attack was
I shouted at Shadow but it had no effect. On firing
shots over her head, Shadow left Julie and took up a position on a rock
Shadow’s eyes drilled into mine and I did the same. I
communicated to her that I would most
certainly kill her. Like two boxers before a boxing match, we stared
down. Tilting her head, Shadow moved her body into a submissive position.
I kept my eyes pinned into hers. "No blinking, hold
the stare!" I commanded myself. My message was clear. "Submission is not
enough, move out of the area!"
Slowly Shadow dropped her head in submission and then,
tail between her legs, she slunk away.
For a brief minute I was in the
world of the tiger, communicating with body, voice and eyes.
A few days before this, I had followed Shadow as she
returned to her den. Suddenly she stopped and turned and stared back at
me. Shadow’s message was clear: "Don't come any further, I don’t want
you in the den". This time I turned my eyes away from the stare and
After the fight, Julie moves towards the cave at the base of the cliff
On Shadow's retreat, Julie communicated to me that
she wanted to go higher up the rocks, closer to the cliff face. Once
again I pushed and pulled Julie, until her destination revealed itself,
a cave in thick bush at the base of the cliff.
Once Julie was in the cave, Shadow was forced to attack from the front
No sooner was Julie in the cave, when Shadow made her
second attack. However, this time Shadow couldn't come from behind
because of the cliff and she couldn't come from above because of the
cave. Shadow had to attack from the front. This proved too risky for
Shadow and she abandoned the attack.
Julie's ability to convince me to help her reach the
cave, saved her life.
For a few minutes, I had communicated with both
tigresses in different ways and at different levels, a giant step
forward in my ability to communicate with tigers.
There was no doubt in my mind, if I had left Julie on
her own, Shadow would have returned and killed her.
I decided to dart Julie and take her out of the
canyon. Doctor Ryan Niemand answered my call for help.
Julie darted in the cave
Unfortunately, Shadow would still attack Julie as we
carried her out of the canyon. This was too great a risk to take. I
asked Ryan to dart Shadow as well.
On examining Shadow's teats there was no milk forthcoming. Shadow had
Shadow falls in water after being darted.
Seven grown men took an hour and a half to carry Julie out of the
As Julie was the only tiger in the area and as she
was in close proximity to Shadow's den, Julie was the obvious culprit.
If I could communicate with Julie or Shadow, I would
ask them what happened?
During the time that Shadow was suckling the cubs, I
was in the habit of giving Shadow a springbuck to boost her milk
production. I was feeding the springbuck a km away from Shadow’s den,
because I was trying to introduce unrelated tiger cubs into Shadow’s
If this cub introduction was successful, I could
increase the diversity of genes at Tiger Canyons (I have already done
this experiment with a lion cub and a tigress.
See newsletter 2
Could it be, that as I lured Shadow away from the den
with the springbuck, Julie had gone into the den and killed Shadow's
cubs. This would explain the
relentless attacks from Shadow. I was totally gutted!
If anyone has a case of a lioness killing the cubs of
another lioness or a female
leopard killing cubs of another leopard or a tigress killing cubs of
another tigress, please let me know.
Thank you for the many responses to various
agree with your sentiments entirely, however showing yourself
playing with Cheetah cubs is tacitly saying that it is okay to
play with young animals. ( it is not ) For the reasons that you
so succinctly write about in the newsletter.
am not a mother grundy and understand and have cared for more
young wild animals than most, but if we as conservationists are
trying to stop the petting zoo and canned lion industry then we
must also not be seen playing with cubs, no matter their
history. ( If people see JV a well-known conservationist playing
with Cheetah then why can’t I, because if he does it, it must be
okay ) syndrome.
Your work is greatly appreciated and I look forward to meeting
with you again someday.
best to you and the team at Londolozi and Tiger Canyons
I agree with Andrew Schofield.
I should not be allowed to purchase a cub which has been pulled from
its mother before six weeks.
The dealer should not be
allowed to sell me a cub that has been pulled from its mother before
Thank you to all who have
pre-purchased the book "In the Jaws of the Tiger". The book will be
out shortly. To those who ordered a leather bound, it will take a
little longer, each book is sewn by hand. Please be patient.
It has been 30 days since I
wrote to the Minister of Defence requesting help from the Defence
Force in the rhino poaching crisis. To date I have had no reply.
Judging for the photo
competition will begin and the winner will be announced shortly.
Tread lightly on the earth